The Gift Of The Christmas Kitten By Jim Peterson

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1 The Gift Of The Christmas Kitten By Jim Peterson 2012 James Peterson 1

2 The Gift Of The Christmas Kitten By Jim Peterson Debra was still asleep when her grandmother left the apartment to go to work. Debra s grandmother cleaned houses for a living and since Debra had come to live with her she had to work longer hours and clean more houses just to earn enough money to pay the rent and to buy food for Debra and herself. It was almost noon when Debra woke. She slowly got out of her bed, put on her robe and she carefully got into her wheelchair. She wheeled herself into the kitchen and got a glass of orange juice from the refrigerator. This was her usual morning routine. She rarely bothered to get dressed in anything other than her pajamas and her robe. She would comb her hair or take a bath only when her grandmother insisted. She just didn t care about the way she looked, the way she felt or even if she lived or died. She didn t care about anything. Debra hadn t always been this way. Six months ago she was a very happy fifteen-year-old girl. She was popular at school and in her suburban neighborhood. She was in the drama club, an editor and reporter for the school paper, a cheerleader and an honor student. Six months ago she was an entirely different girl. But then one night in mid June on the way home from a movie during a thunderstorm the car in which she, her parents and younger brother were riding suddenly slid on the wet pavement and crashed. Debra was the only one who survived the accident. Debra s legs were slightly damaged in the accident but had healed long ago. But it was now six months later and she still couldn t or wouldn t walk. She used a wheelchair to get around her grandmother s tiny apartment where she had been living since the accident. She never left he apartment. Not even to go to school. Her grandmother knew Debra needed help but she could barely afford to feed her. She couldn t afford a doctor for Debra. Today was no different from any other day. After she got her orange juice she sat by the window overlooking the street. She would sit there most of the day watching the people in the street two floors below. After school the neighborhood kids would play there and she would get her wheelchair as close to the window as possible so she could watch them play but she never asked to go down there to join them or even talk to them. She preferred to be alone in her misery. Sometimes when she was trying to get very close to the window the wheel of her wheelchair would get caught behind the steam pipe that came through the floor and went to the old radiator which supplied the heat for the apartment. When this happened she had to struggle for several minutes to get the wheel free. The people who lived in the apartment building were allowed to have some pets. They could have a small bird or two, a few fish or one cat. Dogs and large noisy birds were not allowed. The lady who lived across the hall from Debra and her grandmother had a very friendly cat. She would bring it with her sometimes when she came to visit and Debra didn t mind the cat but she didn t want to pet it. She wasn t afraid of the cat. Her family had a cat when she was a little girl. She just didn t want to become attached to anything or anyone again. 2

3 One day the lady from across the hall told Debra and her grandmother that her cat had become a mother to five kittens. She asked if Debra would like one of the kittens. Debra didn t say anything. She rarely spoke. She just shook her head to indicate she wasn t interested in having a kitten. The neighbor lady and Debra s grandmother were both disappointed. They had hoped a kitten would help get Debra interested in life again. About five weeks later the lady from across the hall asked Debra if she would come over and watch the kittens while she went to the store for some food. She explained that while the kittens were still too young to be given away they were old enough to get into a lot of mischief in the apartment. She wanted Debra to make sure they stayed out of the cupboards and they didn t climb the curtains or do any other damage. Debra didn t really want to kitten-sit but the lady was so nice to her and her grandmother she couldn t say no. It just wouldn t be polite. So Debra agreed and the lady wheeled her across the hall and into her apartment. This was the first time Debra had been out of her grandmother s apartment in the six months she had been there. She was very nervous about being alone with the kittens in a strange apartment even if it was only for thirty minutes. But she watched the kittens as she had been asked to do. When they got too close to the cupboards or the curtains she would pick them up and wheel them back to their box and put them in it. They were big enough now so they didn t stay in the box very long and they were soon out of the box and looking for more mischief to get into. However there was one kitten who didn t climb out of the box very often. He was much smaller then the others and not as strong. The other kittens would sometimes play rough with him and he would just roll up into a ball because he wasn t strong enough to fight back. Debra felt sorry for him but she didn t pay much attention to him. Debra s kitten-sitting became a daily routine while the neighbor lady went shopping. Debra was feeling more comfortable about being with the kittens and would sometimes pick up the littlest kitten for a few minutes and hold him in her lap while she petted him. Even though he was the smallest kitten he still had a loud purr when she petted him. It was almost Christmas and the kittens were now old enough to be given away to the neighborhood kids who would love them and give them good homes. The kittens were almost like Christmas presents for the kids. Soon all of the kittens were gone except the small one. None of the kids wanted him. He was too small and slept most of the time so he didn t play much. The lady asked Debra if she wanted him. Debra shook her head no. The lady asked Debra s grandmother if she would take the kitten since she was allowed to have only one cat. Debra s grandmother explained that she could barely feed Debra and herself. She couldn t afford to feed a kitten too. Without any kittens to watch Debra became quieter and quieter. She slept later and sat by the window but didn t look out much. She barely ate anything and was getting very thin. Her grandmother was very worried about her but she still couldn t afford to take her to a doctor. Two days before Christmas the nice neighbor lady brought some Christmas cookies to Debra and her grandmother. The neighbor lady and Debra s grandmother sat in the kitchen and talked for awhile. 3

4 Finally Debra s grandmother nodded her head and said yes to whatever it was they had been talking about. The neighbor lady smiled and got up from the table. I ll be right back, she said. She went to her apartment and soon returned with a little bowl of cat food and a bowl of fresh milk. She left the apartment again and returned with a litter box and a bag of cat litter and some kitten toys. Debra watched the lady as she brought the cat food and the litter into the apartment. She was very puzzled. She knew they couldn t afford to feed a kitten. The lady left again and returned with the small kitten. She walked over to Debra and put the kitten in her lap. Merry Christmas Debra, said the lady. This kitten is yours now. Your grandmother and I have reached an agreement. If you will take care of the kitten I will buy the cat food and the litter for his box. That way I can get back to having just one cat as the apartment rules allow. At the same time you can have a Christmas kitten and it won t cost your grandmother anything to have the kitten here. Debra didn t know what to say. She was so busy feeling sorry for herself that she didn t really want the responsibility of taking care of the kitten but she couldn t say no because her grandmother and the neighbor lady had already reached an agreement. She was stuck with a kitten she didn t want. The next day was the day before Christmas. Debra s grandmother still had some houses to clean. She woke Debra before she went to catch the bus. You have responsibilities now. she said. You must get up and tend to your kitten. He needs to be fed and give him fresh milk. Then you need to clean his litter box. Debra wasn t at all happy about getting up this early but she loved her grandmother and did as she was told. She fed the kitten, gave him some fresh milk and cleaned his box. Then she wheeled herself to the window. She got as close as she could so she could watch the kids play in the snow banks beside the street. The kitten came over to where she was sitting and started to climb up into her lap. She really wasn t in the mood to play with him so she gave him a bright red ball of yarn from the nearby knitting basket to play with. She watched him for a few minutes while he played with the yarn. Then she went back to looking out the window again. She wheeled her wheelchair even closer to the window so she could see the kids even better. She had been watching the kids play in the street for only a few minutes when she heard the kitten scream. He screamed again. He was in pain and he was scared. Debra turned around to see why he was screaming. He was across the room and the loose end of the yarn was tangled around his neck. The more he struggled to get free the tighter the yarn got around his neck. The kitten was choking and would die if he didn t get help right away. Debra pulled on the wheels of her wheelchair. It didn t move. It was stuck behind the heat pipe again. It would take several minutes of hard work to get the chair from behind the pipe. 4

5 The kitten didn t have several minutes. His screams were not as loud now. He could hardly breathe. He needed help immediately. Without even thinking about it Debra stood up and ran to the kitten. She knelt beside him and quickly untangled the yarn. She removed the yarn from his neck and put it into her pocket. She would never again give the kitten yarn or a ribbon or string to play with unless she had a firm hold on one end of it. She picked up the very frightened kitten and held him close to her. As she hugged him and talked to him she realized that she was not in her wheelchair. She had gone across the room by herself. She slowly stood up and even though her legs were shaking from not being used much for six months she walked back to her wheelchair. As she sat down she was still holding the kitten. He seemed to be over his scare already and was starting to purr as she held him. Debra sat in her chair for almost half an hour thinking about what had happened. Her legs weren t shaking anymore and she wanted to try to walk again. She put the kitten down on the floor. He scampered off to try to find something to play with. Slowly and carefully Debra pushed against the arms of the wheelchair. Her arms were still strong from wheeling herself around the apartment. She raised herself on the arms of the chair until she was standing again. She carefully took a step. She was walking. She smiled as she took another step. She walked to table in the middle of the room. As she lightly touched the table for balance she walked around it twice. Her legs were starting to shake again. She walked back to the wheelchair, pulled it away from the heat pipe and sat down again. Debra started to laugh. It was the first time since the accident that she had even smiled and now she was laughing. She decided that the rest of the day she would walk a few steps every half hour to strengthen her legs and then rest awhile. She wanted to surprise her grandmother when she got home. The rest of the day Debra did just as she had planned. She would walk around the small apartment for a few minutes then sit in her wheelchair to rest. She found that each time she tried she could walk longer and farther than the time before. By late in the afternoon she could walk all the way into the kitchen and back several times. Later that afternoon she was sitting in her wheelchair facing the door when her grandmother came home. As usual her grandmother started toward her to give her a hug and a kiss to say hello. Wait grammy. said Debra. Stay right there. I have a surprise for you. Debra stood up and walked to her grandmother and gave her the biggest hug she could. Debra s grandmother was speechless. She didn t know what to say. They both started to cry and held on to each other for several minutes. I have to sit down now. said Debra as she let go of her grandmother. My legs are still shaky but they will get better quickly because I will practice walking as much as I can. Grandmother was still in shock at seeing Debra walk. 5

6 How did...why are...what happened...you can walk! Grandmother was getting her voice back. What happened? How did you start to walk? Debra explained about the yarn and the kitten and how she had to get to him right away but her wheelchair was stuck behind the pipe. She explained that even though she hadn t had time to think about it she subconsciously knew that the life of the kitten was far more important than her sitting in her chair feeling sorry for herself. Without even thinking she had gone to the kitten so she could save his life. As she talked the kitten climbed into her lap and started to purr as loud as he could. Grammy. said Debra. This kitten was given to me as a Christmas gift. In return he has given me the gift of wanting to walk again. I will be able to go to school again. I will be able to find a job after school so I can help pay for the food and the rent. Our Christmas kitten has given me a wonderful gift. The gift of wanting to live and enjoy life again. He really is a Christmas kitten and I love him and you very much. End Hello, Little Bit and I hope you liked this story and will share it with others. Thank you, Jim & Little Bit 6

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